We polled our esteemed writers and painstakingly tallied the votes. Now the results are in: here are what we judge to be 2014’s ten finest New Zealand shows.
1. The Late Night Big Breakfast
Undoubtedly the best TV made in New Zealand this year, The Late Night Big Breakfast is an insane furniture store-based breakfast-style show. The dream team of Leigh Hart, Jason Hoyte and Jeremy Wells take it to soft furnishings and beyond with their rapid fire interviews with bewildered guests, informercial heavy breaks and jandal-melting segments such as Kraft Korner. It’s a pitch perfect parody of Rawdon and co – and anything that includes endless Mongolian Throat Singing is a winner for sure. / AC
2. Neighbours at War
Neighbours at War presents a vision of New Zealand as a bunch of half-mad ferals, forever arguing over driveways, fences and foliage. It’s like an anti-tourism campaign, a matchless window into our lives and living rooms. Even now, with many of the episodes one-sided, it remains endlessly compelling. / DG
3. Shortland Street
There’s no denying that we love it. Stacking five nights a week with drama, explosions, deaths and always with the strong backbone of social conscience and responsibility, there’s a reason Shortland Street is our longest-running soap. Stand up and be proud of it. Do it for Sarah Potts (RIP). /AC
4. The Crowd Goes Wild
I have visited the CGW offices, and can confirm that they are essentially a glorified broom cupboard. With barely any glorification. But in those parlous surrounds a small but fanatical team produces a smart, very funny and often weirdly soulful vision of sports and those who play it. / DG
5. Jono and Ben at Ten
In terms of its marketing and presentation, JABAT looks pretty daggy: a televisual analogue to FHM, or something. But watching it each week you get a sense of just how much more there is to it. The sketches (Speed Dating) and musical pieces (‘F*** that Dad’) are often brilliant, but it’s the interplay between the on camera talent which keeps you hooked. The charming boorishness of Jono and Ben versus the more contemporary cynicism of Rose Matafeo and Guy Williams works both as both banter and a slow but inevitable torch-passing between two generations of New Zealand television comedy. / DG
6. Police Ten 7
Like Neighbours at War, Police Ten 7 shows New Zealand as it is, not as it aspires to be. Drunk, angry, silly, sloppily dressed and a little out of control: yep, that’s us. While produced by the police and presumably intended as some sort of anti-crime tonic, the show has evolved to become a source of endlessly entertaining dark New Zealand comedy, improvised around the country every night.
It’s not often that New Zealand comedy shows make it big, and with Coverband getting picked up for U.S. development shortly after it aired, it’s got to be doing something right. Starring Johnny Barker, Matt Whelan and an acting debut for Laughon Kora of Kora fame, it’s a sticky, pub beer-fuelled ride through the unseen world of the cover artiste.
8. The Nation
Election years always seem to ratchet up our tribal tensions, and this year’s sordid and animalistic edition did so to a near unbearable degree, as if we were all seized by a collective madness. Every Saturday morning I sat down to watch Paddy Gower and Lisa Owen wrestle with the thing, and gazed on shock and awe. The pair were inspired casting, contrasting his bug-eyed fervour with her cool intellect, and the whole team delivered drama and analysis week in, week out.
9. 7 Days
This current events panel show of NZ comedy stalwarts isn’t going anywhere soon. Between the dusty Hamilton jokes lie moments of pure improvised hilarity – Dai Henwood’s endless ditzy rants spring to mind, as do Josh Thomson’s yelled monologues. With a rotating cast list bringing in the new standup generation it also does a fine job of fostering our comedic talent. / DG
10. Campbell Live
With John Campbell on his way to a near-certain OBE, Campbell Live is well deserving of a place in the top ten. I was hooked this year – from the continuing coverage of Christchurch and Pike River, to a ridiculous episode-long live cross of Tim Shadbolt eating cheese rolls and laughing, it’s a true national treasure. / AC